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Bees get a draw, ref has a stinker and Matthew Benham says his piece.

27 Sep

Brentford 1 Derby County 1. Another game, another draw. We’ve now reached that magic 10 played marker, have eight points and sit in 20th place. Barring the statistical miracle of Birmingham City winning by 6 goals tonight when Sheffield Wednesday visit St. Andrews, it means that’s where we’ll be heading into Saturday’s trip to Middlesbrough.

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Griffin Park always wonderful under floodlights

But if Birmingham winning by 6 would be a statistical miracle (come to think of it, the Blues just winning at the moment would be a case for the Pope in itself) then last night’s encounter at Griffin Park could be deemed much the same. Brentford ended it on 76% whilst the first half alone concluded with Derby seeing just 17.3% of the ball. Talk about one way traffic. On paper. Yet there was no irony lost in the Rams going in for their half time cuppa with a one-nil lead under the belts after Joe Ledley was given the freedom of Griffin Park to head across the goal and past Dan Bentley with little more than a quarter hour gone.

It was goal that sparked fury amongst the Brentford defence. Well, certainly hand waving and accusations at each other. But then when you watch the Sky Highlights you’ll see why. Truly, schoolboy defending given the space afforded to the Welsh international.

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Sloppy defending gifted Derby the lead

But from there, that was it from Derby. Rather than play to win they seemed intent on playing to foul. One would have thought it was Keith Stroud in the middle rather than, apparently, acting as fourth official given the flurry of first half yellow cards and poor decisions made by referee Andy Davies. Andre Wisdom in particular can count himself very lucky that his own poor judgement, charging in on Romaine Sawyers by the angry mob in the paddock, saw him given just a caution.

It was a refereeing performance that continued right to the end where, with Ollie Watkins bearing down on goal, the ref called time as the wideman was about to shoot. It was a decision which summed up his night – Davies, not Watkins. The youngster having minutes earlier scored an equaliser for the Bees from close in that our balance of play, if not our shots, had suggested would be coming.

Derby were big, dirty and physical. Brentford were given minimal protection from the ref. How this one ended 11 v 11 I still have no idea. Yet, equally, Gary Rowett’s men did a job on us. They were solid, resolute and Dean Smith’s team had no way past them. Balls were passed sideways and backwards time and again in a bid to break through. Substitutions were lacklustre and like for like, with no visible attempt to change formation or tactic. Purely adjustments to personnel. That said, Chris Mepham really did impress when he came off the bench for Andreas Bjelland at half time.

Our own shot target wasn’t in the same ball park as our possession but you can’t deny this team keep on going. This team have guts. This team kept playing. And eventually our persistence and domination was rewarded by that man Watkins as he slid home FloJo’s cross.

Should we have won? Possibly. Did we deserve more? Well, no. Sadly. Goals are what win games. Not stats. There is a grudging respect to Derby for playing a certain way. A way we couldn’t get through. Gary Rowett had done his homework and set out his stall. Poor Neal Maupay, dwarfed by the Derby defence, struggled desperately and needed either support or to be given a break. Josh Clarke and Ryan Woods, both amongst our most positive players, were removed early. At one point the disembodied voice of Peter Gilham , commentating on our Oktoberfest Oompah Band from the back of the stand, was the highlight of the first half.

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The extent of our first half oomph, ah

But the team kept going. The team plugged away. The team would eventually get the equaliser that sent the fans home relieved.

Matthew Benham would later make a rare foray onto Twitter where he had a few things to say. Alongside his own criticism of the ref there was more than a fair share for the supporters as he noted :

A really excellent performance tonight from a young, hungry side, created the vast majority of chances. Think the moaners must’ve been watching a different game! #brentfordfc

1. Yes I know boos at the end were for the ref 2. Can’t see how constantly getting on the backs of players DURING the game helps the team.

Fair? Well, I thought we struggled at times. Not in terms of being outplayed but in terms of trying to break through the opposition. As a football fan, I’m somebody who has been brought up on the unconventional tactic of trying to get the ball into the net. Perhaps I’m just out of touch. The self-confessed numpty on the terrace rather than Head Coach. Indeed, at full time Dean would talk about how well we’d stuck to our game plan and the quality of the opposition.

That latter point in particular, one that can’t be ignored. Yet what Dean and Matthew both, perhaps, overlook is that as paying fans we go into a game with a certain level of expectation. Winning the game. That’s what football is about. Surely?

We don’t have the involvement of almost being too close. Of being within that inner circle. Of seeing what goes on behind the scenes. Of being the ones stumping up the cash for the players and the stadium. What we have seen so far is our heroes sold from under our feet (for well documented reasons), some shocking defensive lapses that have turned potential victories into defeat or draw and an average of less than a point a game after reaching that magical ten game mark with a solitary victory under the belt.

That’s not to say we’ll support them any less. That’s not to say we have that divine right to ‘be any good’. I love watching the Bees but do reserve anyone’s right to shout at times. This is West London, not North Korea. I have huge respect for our owner and understand the frustration from his perspective.  But I think he was wrong on this one. If nothing else, I didn’t even hear that much moaning from my seat on the touchline. It wasn’t a great game to watch. It was a physical battle that we were often second best in. It was also a game where our team were offered minimal protection from a fussy referee.

But it was also a game that showed we keep going. So often, Brentford teams of old have just given up. Have accepted defeat. This isn’t the Butcher era. The days of Leroy are gone. I don’t agree with everything Dean does tactically in his role as head coach. But I support this club come thick or thin. I’m well pleased with another point in what were really tricky circumstances.

At the same time, I’ll never admit that last night was any form of classic. It wasn’t. It was a game that shows just how tough this league can be. It was game where we eventually got what, on balance, we deserved through grit and determination.

Saturday will be another tough challenge, no doubt. But with Middlesbrough losing at home last night (0-1 to Norwich City) is there a chink in their armour we can exploit?

Roll on the weekend when we find out.

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Matthew says his piece on Twitter at full time

Nick Bruzon

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Enjoy Championship action….after dark. Strange thoughts abound ahead of tonight’s game.

26 Sep

Brentford Nights. It goes without saying that an evening game at Griffin Park is always a special occasion and tonight’s visit of Derby County promises to be just that. With confidence high following Saturday’s demolition of Bolton Wanderers, the bar of expectation will have been raised and fans will be hoping for more. In our way stand a Rams side who also played a basement club in Birmingham City and came away with a point themselves.

I really can’t wait for this one. The marketing campaign – Brentford Nights – has given added spice to this one with the lure of Oktoberfest mentioned in the build up and an image of those iconic floodlight pylons on the promo poster. Much as I love the thought of German hot dogs and beer, I’d happily settle for a goal fest or a flood of points.

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For Brentford, back to back league wins can only be the target. Full time will see us having reached the ‘ten game’ mark and the table having officially ‘taken shape’. Will the Bees be heading towards mid-table with another win and just four defeats from this opening period? Will we be starting to look like draw specialists? Or will we be sucked back towards the Birmingham zone at the foot of the division?

If nothing else, yet another changed line up is sure to come. Whether because of ongoing injury to John Egan or Dean Smith quite rightly rewarding the performance of his replacement at Bolton, EFL Star of the day (their words), Yoann Barbet. The BBC report Lasse Vibe and Sergi Canos as still injured and so I can’t see any further changes beyond the return of the Frenchman.

But then, why would you? Saturday’s game saw all the potential that Dean had talked about. You can only beat who you are up against and 3-0 away from home is as comprehensive as it comes. I can’t see any goalkeeper in the land as having been able to stop any of those goals. It just shows what happens when you have the confidence to shoot. I’m still in awe at all three strikes.

The Rams won’t be any form of rollover. Far from it. That same BBC report also suggests that there’ll be no Lawrence, no Davies and no Thorne in the side tonight for Derby. For which we can only be grateful as Tom, Curtis and George all remain doubts. Quite frankly, the less options available to manager Gary Rowett the better.

Yet you can still be sure that he’ll have any team he selects fired up and ready to go for it. If nothing else, the 4-0 tonking administered at Griffin Park last season will be a performance they’ll want some form of pay back for. Truly, the Bees were magnificent that day. More of the same will do very nicely, thank you.

The one disconcerting thing about this evening’s game is the club’s aforementioned strapline of : Brentford Nights.

It may just be me, but I can’t read it without thinking of bad TV. Very bad TV. So bad it’s beyond bad and is genuinely compelling TV. Namely, the David Hasselhoff spin off show: Baywatch Nights. A two series run in which Mitch Buchannon (the Hoff) swaps his red lifeguard’s shorts to form an after dark detective agency in Malibu. As you do.

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Baywatch Nights. The Hoff. It really happened

As career changes go, it was leftfield. The strangest Hasselhoff vehicle since Kitt, the back talking car. Yet if the opening season plots – about serial killers, robbery, and Hasselhoff going undercover in the drag queen circuit (episode 10) were your standard Miami Vice lite – the second series went truly bizarre. Rather than drug rings and kidnapping, the show took an X-files twist as Hasselhoff and his team investigated vampire sightings, Werewolves, a museum mummy and a time travelling log cabin.

Odd doesn’t begin to describe it. Baywatch  Nights never got a third series. Sadly. Mitch returned to the beach and the only surreal happening involving The Hoff were the four goals he scored in red and white. Yet it goes to show that the strangest things happen after dark.

Here’s hoping for more tonight. Strange things going on. Such as a home win. As for the Vampire sightings, I’ll settle for Scott Carson being scared of crosses.

I’ll get my coat.

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The Hoff. Gone but not forgotten

Nick Bruzon

Welcome Home, King Jota. Majestic finish completes another derby day defeat of QPR.

23 Apr

Where do you start with this one? The scoreline? Brentford 3 QPR 1. The record? Three wins out of four in Brentford’s favour since our paths crossed again in the Championship. The current form guide? That’s LLLLLL for a QPR side who are by no means out of the relegation woods yet and entertain fellow strugglers Nottingham Forest next up. Or that man, Jota?

There was a welcome home, with very open arms, to the King yesterday and didn’t he repay his adoring subjects back in style? If his second goal against Derby County last time we were all at Griffin Park was something special, yesterday’s is one where words really can’t do it justice.

A delightful cross field ball from Nico found the King of Spain whose first touch, past Jake Bidwell, was simply magnificent. With the ball  travelling straight towards him he knocked it forward, mid air, already running and then picked it up once more the other side of the former Bee. Cutting into the box, as against Derby, he then shot through three defenders and past the ‘keeper for a goal that sent Griffin Park bonkers. It was a thing of absolute beauty  – from the control, at speed, on the first touch to the jinking through the defence and net rippling denouement.

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As seen on / stolen from Brentford official. Nice.

Oh, the smile on his face. The noise from the crowd as the scoreboard moved up to 3-1. Former Bee and one time QPR player Les Ferdinand, sitting up in the director’s box, could only applaud the majestic finish from the Spaniard. He is quite possibly the most exciting and skillful player we’ve ever had the pleasure of watching at Griffin Park. Jota, not Les.

One could well understand the exhilaration of the moment causing him to take his shirt off and earn the mandatory yellow card. We all know the rules but nobody cared.

Let’s not overlook the pass from Nico that started the move either. Like Ryan Woods yesterday, perhaps one of the unsung heroes from this game, but the accuracy of his delivery from a good 40 yards was the catalyst to this goal.

Prior to this Yoann Barbet had given the Bees a lead in a cagey first half where, perhaps, the visitors had the slightly better chances. Daniel Bentley was called upon to make a couple of smart reaction saves, a feat repeated during a second period that saw an additional 7(seven) minutes of injury time added on. By then, though, it was far too little, far too late.

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View from the Braemar. QPR try to get stuck in during the first half

Jota had doubled our lead from the penalty spot following a foul on Max Colin and whilst the reply from the visitors for 2-1 was almost immediate, they’d barely finished celebrating before the Nico and Jota show graced Griffin Park. I cannot wait to hear what Mark Burridge and co on the Beesplayer team made of this one when the highlights go live at lunchtime. Until then Sky have the best of the action, including one for the visitors that definitely didn’t cross the line (who needs goal line technology?).

But, really, like Burton away (one imagines!) it was the sort of game and the sort of atmosphere where watching on TV can only part replicate the moment. A full house in the sunshine saw Dean Smith’s boys go for it as supporters and players alike delighted in returning Ian Holloway his pre-season prediction in a giftbox . With a card. Marked three points.

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Even the fanzine sellers made their point to Mr Holloway

On a weekend that saw Billy Reeves, Adam Devlin and Rich Archer forming their super group Grown Men in Tears to release the wonderful ‘Welcome Home, King Jota’ for charity (and PLEASE, rush out and buy this before it is deleted on Friday – all proceeds from the 79p download go to Cancer Research UK) , there was no irony lost at the charitable donation made by QPR. To Brentford.

Another three points. A 237 derby double over our near neighbours. What was, by all accounts, a somewhat emotional post match press conference from Ian Holloway (oh, to have been with the journalists for that one). But best of all, Brentford up to 9th in the Championship table. With two games to go we’ve a very real prospect of a third top ten finish and even creeping into 8th to overtake last season’s final slot.

That’s all to look forward to though. For now, let’s just enjoy the moment once more.

Welcome home, King Jota.

Please don’t go anywhere.

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A full house and returning favourite were blown away by the king

Nick Bruzon

Rams raided in demolition derby. The Great Dane and King of Spain inspire killer Bees.

14 Apr

Sometimes, there’s nothing you can do but stand back and gasp in awe. There’s Good Friday and then there’s this. Bloody Marvellous Friday. Brentford swept Derby County aside by 4-0. It was a scoreline which, if anything, underplays just how complete a team performance this was. Barnsley should be quaking in their boots if we can even half replicate this one on Monday.

Three hours after full time and I’m still staggered by just how beautiful that was. We’ve spoken all season about what would happen if the Bees could play a full 90 minutes at full tempo. Well, here was the answer. And boy, wasn’t it a joy to behold?

“A game of two halves. And Derby weren’t in either” . Not my words but those of one New Road observer. Top comment from a top cat. He really couldn’t have summarised it in a more poetic or appropriate fashion. Sentiments shared at the bar of The Griffin post game, where the first comment I heard was one of , “4-0? 4. 0. To Brentford? Just what’s that all about?”

Ah. The tale of the unfancied and underestimated underdog being played out yet again. Derby committing the fatal mistake of playing the reputation (a traditional mid tier three outfit) rather than the team in front of them (a free scoring XI with the tastiest wings this side of Colonel Sanders).

Oh, Jota. Could we love this man any more? Every time you think he’s reached his peak he then goes one better. Or, in this case, two. His opening goal, to double Lasse Vibe’s first half opener (one that the Spaniard himself had provided the assist for) was beautifully taken. But the second, to hammer home the four goal advantage, was up there with the best of them.

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View from the Braemar. Jota points the way

The King of Spain let the ball slide one way past the hapless Richard Keogh, the player himself going the other, before reuniting with the ball. It was a moment to take the breath away and as close to Pele in 1970 or Maradona against England in 1986 as one could hope to see in West London.

But then, with supporters gasping for air, he completed the stranglehold. On Derby, that is . From a seemingly impossible angle he fired home from the corner of the six yard box, through three defenders, past the ‘keeper, across the goal and into the net at the back stick.

How the crowd roared. How the king, arms aloft, soared. Grown men gasped. The director’s box, to a man (and woman) stood as one. Acknowledging a moment that truly was the crown jewel in a consumate performance.

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The Bees line up to celebrate with the man of the moment

Between Jota’s pair, Lasse Vibe had made it 3-0. His shot from outside the box already wrapping things up and leaving the Great Dane on the cusp of what would, possibly should, have been a well deserved hat-trick. Scott who? With the greatest of respect to the former Bee, Lasse has well and truly proven what he can do and what a great piece of business that Matthew and the team pulled off back in January.

But just as against Leeds United, to overly single out any one payer would be unfair. It was one of those performances where we saw just how good Dean Smith’s team is. The difference being that, whilst both games saw great Bees’ performances, this time we kept it going for the full 90. Indeed, if anything, we actually accelerated.

Marcus Gayle summed things up nicely at full time . His twitter analysis encapsulated it in succinct fashion. “That was the most complete 90 min team performance by @BrentfordFC this season – full of confidence,creativeness and goals at  Grifffin Park

If you were there, you know what happened. If you weren’t, then my condolences. It really was THAT good. As ever, the BBC, Brentford ‘official’ or Beesotted are amongst the sources to get your full fat match report.

The next game can’t come soon enough. The trip to Barnsley may be a long one but if Brentford put in even half the shift they did today, then three points are the least we’ll come home with.

That’s for Monday, though. For now, it’s a chance to maybe play those goals once more. Sky sports have the video up now on their internet page, with Bees Player to follow tomorrow.

I can’t wait to hear what Mark Burridge made of this one.

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Derby were yards behind us, in both halves

Nick Bruzon

3,999 down. 1 to go. Who would you start on Saturday?

19 Oct

Brentford bounced back from Saturday’s loss to Newcastle with what sounds like a hard fought 0-0 draw at Derby County. And that was just for the spectators.

Official would later describe it on Twitter as “A resolute defensive performance” ; Dean Smith told the BBC that,” I thought our performance was very good, very disciplined and the intensity of pressing in our half was very good”.

Three shots on target each tells its own story but all of this is no bad thing. Would you have taken a point prior to kickoff?

Absolutely I would have. If 0-0 was the price then fair enough. Football is as much about defending as it is attacking. Indeed, the Bees remain just outside the play-off zone going into our 4,000th league game on Saturday against Barnsley.

I wasn’t there for this one. I didn’t even have the luxury of Beesplayer or even Sky Sports news this time around.  So don’t expect any form of match report . As ever, Beesotted, the BBC or official are your places. The latter using their first paragraph (yes, we have them this season) to set the tone in describing the game as “a fine defensive display”.

I’m not complaining. Newly revitalised Derby was always going to be a tough place to visit. Moreso, coming off the back of the weekend’s exertions. And it was nice to see things mixed up in midfield – Sam Saunders and Sullay Kaikai both starting this one in an attempt to break down an opposition defence that had only conceded once in the previous three games. Make that four now.

Yet the same goes for us despite enforced changes. With skipper Harlee Dean suspended, the combination of left back Yoann Barbet, John Egan, Andreas Bjelland and Maxime Colin shut out the Rams. Daniel Bentley reads as though he was up to his usual high standards as Brentford made it a second clean sheet (and 0-0) in three games

All of which presents Dean with a selection poser going in to the Derby game. Does Harlee walk straight back into the side? Does he give the pairing of Bjelland and Egan another run out together? Personally, I’m all for rewarding form and if the new partnership coped as well as we are reading, then why not give it another go?

Certainly that was the attitude Dean showed after the 4-1 tonking of Reading. Ryan Woods missed that one following his yellow card at Aston Villa yet so well did the team play despite his absence that the Ginger Pirlo then had to sit out his next available game, Wigan, on the bench.

Then again I’m not the manager, head coach, whatever. I’m just the numpty on the terrace. What goes in midfield may not translate to the defence. Could we deny the skipper the opportunity to start on such an auspicious occasion? Indeed, should we given the performance against Derby?

What would you do?

HB Harlee and Dan

Will Harlee be leading the team out on Saturday?

Nick Bruzon

As suspension bites, who plays in defence for Derby? Can Bees ‘go again’?

18 Oct

It only seems like five minutes ago we were making that huge trek up to Newcastle United (and that was just the staircase in the away stand). Now Brentford find themselves on the road once again – this time Derby County is the destination. An immediate chance to bounce back or too much, too soon? Either way, such are the rigours of this double header that Dean Smith has elected to keep his team on their travels rather than returning to Griffin Park between games.

Newcastle was always going to be tough but they were half way down the track with the Bees still crouched in the blocks, the sound of the starting gun still ringing in our ears. It was 2-0 to the home side within what felt like ten seconds and Dean has publicly acknowledged our own defensive failings in that one. For the record, something most uncharacteristic this season. Changes are coming for the Derby game, although enforced.

Harlee Dean is suspended whilst Andreas Bjelland, covering at left back, “Has been nursing an ankle for two weeks”.That was the update fro Dean Smith on ‘official’ yesterday.  Will he be fit enough for tonight? Will Yoann start? At left back or centre back? Could Tom Field appear once more? Do we need to defrost Kevin O’Connor?

Only Dean knows for sure but his selection will be carefully scrutinised when it is announced at 7pm. Likewise in midfield where, if we’re being honest, the team were stretched and a few of the players were definitely second best.

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Newcastle United – did the experience get to us?

There are plenty of positives. We’ve got to where we are on merit and there won’t be any tougher trip this season than that to Newcastle. Both in terms of atmosphere and opposition. Jon Shelvey and Dwight Gayle were amongst those showing their Premier League class. Let’s not pretend that they are anything but top flight players.

Scott Hogan scored, again, whilst the Brentford fans kept going until the end. Much closer to the pitch at Derby than at the weekend, we’re sure to make our voices heard.

As for the Rams, they have their own injury worries. Likewise the weight of expectation can only, one hopes, be growing following Steve McClaren’s winning start. Is this the second coming of the Messiah or will he choke it tonight? Here’s hoping for the latter.

One thing I can say for sure is that Saturday has left me wanting so much more. Despite the years kicking around the lower divisions, I’m now getting used to the Championship. Visiting new grounds, playing new teams and testing ourselves at a much higher level. Newcastle was a step up from even that, as was Aston Villa (at least, in terms of stadium).

Call me greedy. Call me unrealistic. Bournemouth did it (although at what price). Could Brentford also achieve an unlikely promotion to the Premier League? A win tonight would plunge us into the heart of the play-off zone , subject to other results. Just how much do the players want it ?

At 7.45pm, we find out.

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Villa Park – another ground I want more of

Nick Bruzon

The good, the bad and the ugly. Bees reach new heights at Newcastle, Villa do their thing whilst pigs can fly. A week in football.

17 Oct

Brentford went down 3-1 at Newcastle United, who were overtaken in the race to the top of the table by Norwich City. Tuesday night’s opponents Derby County got off to a winning start under new manager Steve McClaren whilst the other team to replace their boss, Aston Villa, churned out yet another draw. That’s 8 out of 12 now for the Villains who sit just one point above the relegation zone. Making up the bottom three are Wigan, Blackburn and Rotherham

That’s the latest Championship action in nutshell. Yet there has been so much more going on in the division and beyond. In the latest of our regular, weekly feature we look back at those things you might have missed from the world of social media.

Whilst it was a week which began with the next round of World Cup qualifiers we’ll start, as ever, with Brentford. Our trip to Newcastle was one which ended in disappointment. Fan opinion seemed to be largely that the moment got the better of us.

But whatever happened on the pitch, nobody could doubt the fans had fun. And what a sight.

Looking down on the action at Newcastle was a unique experience. A wonderful opportunity to watch play unfold or the last of us just making it down from the 14 flights of stairs now?

Brentford aren’t  the only ones travelling well. For all that nobody is sniggering at the plight Aston Villa find themselves in , you can’t deny their fans are fiercely loyal.

That’s great work. Seriously. Getting home from that one isn’t going to be fun. At least Villa will have a point to celebrate with (the draw currently at a very generous 23/10).

Aston Villa weren’t the only ones to pick up a point. As Norwich City went top, Ipswich Town laboured to a 0-0 with Blackburn. Bad enough, without your neighbours then putting the boot in .

Charlton Athletic also had trouble on the pitch before eventually putting Coventry City to the sword. Given their high profile relations (or lack of) with their supporters it was nice to see them doing all possible to maintain a sense of perspective.

It wasn’t just pigs invading football pitches at the weekend. There were dogs joining in the action, too

Next up, kit news. And there’s lots of it. With Brentford celebrating their 4,000th league game on Saturday there had been a hope we might have worn some form of celebratory shirt. Whilst this doesn’t seem to be the case (as it stands), over in the Netherlands Sparta have taken that idea forward.

What a beauty. That said, whilst I’m all for a retro style shirt, let’s hope Derby County don’t go down that route on Tuesday night . This one flashed across my timeline on Friday.

Bolton Wanderers are also making the headlines. Their kitman not a patch on our own Bob Oteng. Certainly, if this is the best he can come up with.

Whilst the club may not be giving us a special kit for Saturday, let’s hope the marketing team aren’t casting their eyes towards Portugal. Just when you thought there was nothing left for a club to stick their name on, think again.

There were international games at the start of the week, too. Nobody needs any reminder of that so we’ll keep it to two that seem to sum things up nicely.

But we’ll finish with clowns. Not the crazy killer variety but over at Loftus Road where, it seems, they are struggling with the atmosphere.

Oh dear.

Nick Bruzon 

With Derby next up, what can we learn from the Newcastle juggernaut?

16 Oct

Brentford travelled en-masse to Newcastle United full of expectation. We left on the wrong end of a 3-1 defeat. It is a  scoreline that doesn’t even come close to showing the gap between our two sides. I’ve no problem with being well beaten but let’s not pretend that, on this occasion, we weren’t anything but second best to deserved winners. Dean Smith’s post match assertion that “We competed well enough”  something which, I’m sorry to say, I disagree with. With the next game, at Derby County, only on Tuesday let’s hope he reviews this one carefully.

Hey, I love our Bees. I love going away and this was a corker of a trip.  Close to 3,000 visiting fans helping to make it the biggest crowd we’ve played in front of since 1946. And there, perhaps, was part of the issue. Whilst Newcastle are used to this on a weekly basis, we aren’t.

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A huge crowd to watch the Bees and Magpies

I’ll big us up when we do well or ‘fess up when we get away with proverbial murder, but I won’t stick my head in the sand. It was like watching 11 rabbits caught in the headlights of on onrushing Geordie juggernaut for the first twenty minutes . And it rolled straight over us.

How much room for the first goal as Jonjo Shelvey directed it on to the head of an unpressured Ciaran Clarke just 11 minutes in ? Dwight Gayle was given all the space he needed for the second (16) as Shelvey’s long ball over top set up the striker for the first of his pair.

Two down and rocking on the backfoot,  Newcastle really should have administered a knockout blow on 20 minutes. Had Ayoze Perez opted for head rather than hand his goal would have stood and, surely, opened the floodgates for a potential 7(seven) goal bracketing.

Instead, despite Brentford having been carved open time and again like a prize turkey with little resistance offered in return, the Bees hung on to a 2-0 half time deficit. Yet with the gap manageable and the potential there to, erm, go again in the second period we crumbled just four minutes into the half. Gayle grabbing his second of the afternoon as Shelvey turned provider once more.

To their credit, Brentford weren’t overwhelmed and even had the last word….“. Those aren’t my words but those of Channel 5 commentator Nick Halling to describe the moment Scott Hogan swopped in to give us hope. The already vocal Bees erupted further; passion flared in the stands. With most of us cheering on our our boys (although a few choosing a somewhat insalubrious selection of exhortations and admonishments) a brief period of hope turned to a case of ‘if only’.

Had we got that goal at 2 down rather than just a few moments after falling 3 behind then things might have been different. 2-1 and 40 minutes to play make it anybody’s game. But, instead, it proved to be little more than consolation.

Mark Burridge talks through the action, as ever, c/o Brentford official

Newcastle United were worthy winners. Absolutely. You can only beat who you are up against and they did that. Yet, being equally honest, were they that good? At least, yesterday.

I’d agree with Dean that we gave them a helping hand and that defensively we’re normally very good. Equally though, we offered little and had we challenged more then who knows what we’d have got out of this one?

Instead our selected team were stretched in midfield and couldn’t get the ball forward. Substitutions, made once we were 3-1 down, seemed more around containing the damage than offering any hope of pulling something unlikely out of the bag. Surely that should have been more the team he started with than reverted to?

Newcastle United played us. We played them, the history, the reputation, the atmosphere, the stadium, the occasion and ourselves.

Genuinely, I think things would have been a lot closer had the game been at Griffin Park. But then that’s home advantage and boy did they make it count. Let’s not take anything away from Newcastle after a game they could have won by more.

Look. This shouldn’t be taken as doom and gloom. Let’s not forget we were up against a team who had recently won 6-0 at  QPR and put 4 past current leaders Norwich City.

This is all part of a learning experience for a team that is still developing. It’s just, perhaps, disappointing given how competitive we can be at times and how far we have already come. The more we play in venues such as this the more we’ll learn how to handle the pressure. The more we’ll learn to take the game to our opponents or, at the least, shut them down.

And if nothing else, we can leave with our heads held high. Given our own history with sh*t hashtags, (see, amongst others: #trophyfriends, #bignewambitions, #novemberkings ) it was nice to see one that was possibly even worse than all of these put together.

Newcastle United inviting their fans  to #JoinTheRafalution.

rafa-hashtag

Brentford have a chance to get straight back into action on Tuesday night at Derby County. Interestingly, Steve McClaren got off to a strong start as his Rams beat Leeds United 1-0. With his team climbing to within five points of our own 8th placed Bees, don’t expect this one to be any easier.

For either side.

Nick Bruzon

A tale of two Steves as Dean stays in charge where it counts

13 Oct

With Brentford making final preparations for Saturday’s trip to Newcastle United, we can at least be safe in the knowledge that any chance of Dean Smith going to Aston Villa has now officially been snuffed out. On a day of managerial change, not only was Steve Bruce named in charge at Villa Park but Steve McClaren has, seemingly out of nowhere, been reinstalled at Derby County. The same Derby County team that we visit on Tuesday evening.

First up, Aston Villa. Despite the early talk about our own Dean Smith being linked with that one it was never anything more than a story. At least, based on outward appearances. Personally, and I said at the time, there didn’t seem any chance of this happening for multiple reasons and this has now proven to be the case.

It’s great news for Brentford and, one would hope, for Aston Villa. Some fans will be relieved they haven’t inherited the manager of a ‘pub side’. Others might have some concern about a man who was in charge of local rivals Birmingham City from 2001-07.

That latter point, aside from getting stick from the opposition fans when the two sides meet, would seem to be largely irrelevant though. As long as a team is doing well then it is an awful lot easier to look at the past through rose tinted glasses.

Then again, he walks into a hotbed of expectation.

Tim Sherwood was in charge of Aston Villa back in October 2015 (hmm, that went well). A year later they’ve been through Sherwood, Kevin MacDonald, Remi Garde, Eric Black and of course Roberto di Matteo. Twelve months on and Bruce now has what was previously described as less a hot seat and more an electric chair.

And, of course, there is the additional pressure of a hashtag. The club announced his arrival with use of this cringeworthy social media device (see also: #Jakejoins). At this rate, surely we’re only a short step away from a meme to announce a new signing?

Nobody knows how this will turn out. It’ll be fun finding out though.

screen-shot-2016-10-13-at-05-59-55

Steve joins at Villa; Dean stays with his pub side

But the really interesting news yesterday surrounded Derby County and Steve McClaren. Of course,  the one time umbrella wielding manager has been there before. He and Derby parted company in 2015 amidst much interest from a Newcastle United side he would eventually join (hmm, that went well) and hot off the back of that self-destruct as they threw away an almost nailed on place in the play-offs.

Brentford were just one of the beneficiaries as the Rams somehow lost 3-0, at home, to a very average Reading side who had literally nothing to play for. Indeed, our 2-0 win over them the weekend before had further knocked the stuffing out of the Royals in their final home game of that campaign. The Bees’ reward for that capitulation,  a two legged semi with Middlesbrough. Move along, nothing to see here.

But will it work again? McClaren’s time at Newcastle was an unmitigated disaster, I’m sorry to say. He has that emotional pressure of the way his England career panned out – a disaster on the pitch and widely ridiculed off it –  whilst he is as known for his infamous Dutch accent as his two stints in charge of Eredivise side Twente. That, a role he would also be obliged to resign from.

Frankly, he seems to have more lives than a cat yet still boards come back to him. I’m not sure what just what it is that he posesses but it’s going to be interesting finding out.

steve-mcclaren-cat

Can Steve the cat stay out of the rain this time?

Both Bruce and McClaren will have expectation from their own fans aswell as heckling from the visiting supporters to deal with. In the case of Aston Villa, one can only assume this will be limited to a few games here and there – the Birmingham s and Wolves of this world. But for McClaren, with terrace wags knowing just how many roles (and play offs) his teams have eventually choked, he could be in for a rough ride should things not get off to anything but a flier.

Forget the weight of expectation, that umbrella is the real baggage he carries around with him. Here’s hoping it is still weighing him down when Brentford visit on Tuesday.

Before that, though, is the small matter of our visit to Newcastle on Saturday. The Bees will be there in huge numbers, with chief executive Mark Devlin giving local journalists a free story with his latest ’tweet’ on ticket sales. For a club our size, the travelling fans have always gone in impressive numbers and this is no different.Close to 3,000 for the long trek up to the North-East isn’t to be sniffed at.

Great work, one and all. Let’s hope the team, and Dean Smith – our head coach – do them justice on the pitch.

See you there.

Nick Bruzon

Derby not the only Casualty as Wigan lose out on ‘chant of the year’

18 May

As with yesterday, Brentford know another Championship opponent for next season after the play-offs claimed another victim (although it was a lot tighter than most neutrals imagined). Over at Old Trafford, Manchester United went to incredible lengths to distract people from talking about ‘that bomb’ whilst, apparently, Will Grigg is still on fire. Amongst other things.

Where to start though ? Why not Manchester United, given how ‘the bomb that never was’ (thankfully) has dominated the news these last few days. Well, their abandoned game with Bournemouth took place last night and, on the pitch, whilst the 19-0 ‘spoiler’ that would have kerplunked Manchester City for the final Champion’s League spot never happened, Louis van Gaal’s team got the  win that most people expected.

This, even if Chris Smalling’s last minute own goal denied his own ‘keeper, a share of the Premier League’s ‘golden glove’ for most shut outs in the season. Petr Cech beating David de Gea to the award by 16 clean sheets to 15. (Stop sniggering at the back. And the Ethiad).

But it was pre-kick off where my social media timeline awoke from it’s pre-kick off slumber. Specifically because United had decided to paint three of their child mascots blue.

Not in some sort of homage to neighbours City but, infact, to promote the forthcoming X-Men film. Ironically, a film I’d imagine most of them aren’t even old enough to watch judging by the photograph which appeared c/o Telegraph football’s Twitter feed.

Telegraph x-men mascots

This really happened….

As marketing decisions go, it’s one that seems to rank alongside our own #bignewambitions . Certainly in terms of the bizarre, if nothing else. Whilst you have to say that it did get people talking is there no length they won’t stoop to in order for a bit more commercial revenue ? Body painting children in the colours of your arch rivals to promote a movie?

As one twitter wag noted, “let’s hope they didn’t have to stay painted from Sunday”.

Still, if all of this distracted people from Bournemouth’s chant of the season in  “Shall we check the bogs for you?” then who am I to criticise?

And as a side note, congratulations to Bournemouth in defying the expectations of just about every critic and amateur pundit in securing a second series  season in the Premier League. Despite playing what would seem to be fast and loose with the FFP rules on the way to beating us to a promotion spot last season, like Leicester City they have still punched well above above their expected weight this time around. Here’s hoping we can join them again soon.

Sadly, I didn’t get to see any of this. Another Tuesday night saw another surrendering of the remote control to Mrs. Bruzon for Holby City. It’s all about the trade off and saving the zapper for ‘the big games’ . Besides, as we all knew, there was nothing interesting going to happen in the Man U game whilst Derby County had no hope in the play-offs at Hull City AFC after going down 3-0 in the first leg at home.

And yet again another example of why I’m the numpty on the terrace rather than any form of pundit, manager, informed observer or football fan with half a brain. With just over half an hour on the clock, Derby had swept into a two goal lead .

Could the impossible actually happen? No. Mrs Bruzon wouldn’t surrender the remote. And on pitch, things remained the same. Meaning Hull go though 3-2 on aggregate whilst, for Derby, it was a third successive capitulation in the most heartbreaking of knock out tournaments.

As with Brighton in yesterday’s column, it is a pain us Brentford fans can well relate to. On the plus side, for us, another good away trip to add to the calendar next season as at least one lengthy journey will now be crossed off the fixture list.

And talking of Brentford – finally – you may not be aware but apparently Northern Ireland International Will Grigg, now plying his trade at Wigan Athletic, is on fire. More to the point, if you believe the (apparently) popular terrace chant, “Your defence is terrified”.

I’m genuinely pleased for Will. We all know that things didn’t quite work out for him at Brentford with his cause not being helped by injury. He arrived with a huge reputation and a lot of anticipation yet ended up leaving with a goal scoring record that was, I’m sure as much for the player as the supporters, somewhat below expectation.

4 goals in 34 league games (including a brace and missed penalty on his home debut v Sheffield United) are, if we’re being honest, not the sort of figures to strike this supposed terror into the heart of any defence.

Grigg Pen

Will Grigg missed out on a home debut hat trick.

Yet, you can’t knock his subsequent League 1 record with MK Dons or Wigan Athletic. It’s going to be very interesting indeed to see how he steps up a division to the Championship. Have Brentford made the biggest mistake of all time in letting him go after his loan spell at Stadium MK or will this be proven to have been a good decision? Only time will tell.

The main reason for finally jumping on the “Grigg/fire’ bandwagon is the news that Wigan chairman David Sharpe has now rewarded the supporter purported to have created the chants with a free season ticket. Fair dues and well played.

But by that logic, if Ciff Crown is reading (you never know) how about making a similar gesture at Brentford? Whilst not ‘chants’ per se, I can lay claim to:  “And this is Saunders territory” for the awarding of any set-piece within a 25 yard radius of the goal line . This, regardless of whether the perma-tanned wing wizard and dead ball demi-god is even on the pitch. It is a lucky mantra that has worked on numerous occasions.

Likewise, I’ve got half-shares in, “Don’t take it short; it never works”  (along with a more colourful variant) whenever we are about to take a short corner. So far, this tactical advice about the most maligned of set-pieces has proven correct.

How about it Cliff? If it’s good enough for Wigan….?

Wigan chairman re Grigg

Bournemouth fans may disagree with this sharp observation

The other piece of Brentford news to catch my eye was something shared by Brentford video whizz kid (and Alex Pritchard lookalike ) Sean Ridley .

The Football League have released the new ‘official font’ and numbering to be used on next season’s kits.And, it’s fair to say, that reactions have been mixed.

I like the font, I’m not convinced by the look of the numbering but I’m very disconcerted by the apparent lack of brackets for supporters looking to get a replica shirt printed up. Looks like another season for yours truly without a: Saunders 7 (seven).

One year, club shop. One year……

new font

coming soon to a back near you

And finally, as ever at this time of the year, my own moment of self-promotion and (more importantly) thanks to all those who have so far downloaded either The Last Word ‘season review’ : Ready. Steady. Go Again or the three year anthology : The Bees are going up. I remain shocked but hugely respectful of the fact that anybody would take the time to go over this nonsense and relive these moments once more.

It has been a stunning few years. Here’s to more of the same.  Until then, the last three season reviews and overall anthology are available here.

Nick Bruzon